Sunday, October 5, 2014

FIAR: Papa Piccolo

We had fabulous fun with this row, which we did the week of September 8-12.  I think it is Emma's favorite book so far.

Papa Piccolo is about a cool and groovy tomcat who is befriended by two frisky, live wire kittens he dubs Marco and Polo.  Piccolo's friends observe as the adventurous kittens transform the easy going, independent alley cat into a compassionate, nurturing father figure.  This book has everything going for it....a funny and touching story line, bold and bright illustrations, and a peek into the fascinating culture of Venice.  There was lots to learn, and we enjoyed every minute of it.

For starters, we love most anything Italian, so this book offered tons of FOOD fun!  On Monday, I made pizza puffs for lunch.  We use this recipe often for party appetizers because it is easy, inexpensive, and versatile.

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

3/4 cup flour
3/4 t. baking powder
1/2 T Italian Seasoning
1 t. salt
3/4 c. milk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup diced pepperoni (or toppings of your choice)

1.  Mix dry ingredients
2.  Add wet ingredients
3.  LET SIT for 10 minutes
4. Use cookie scoop to put mixture into 24 well greased mini muffin tins
4.  Bake at 374 for 20-25 minutes
5.  Serve with pizza sauce for dipping

At the end of Day One, we all went out for gelato.  We usually do something special at the end of the week as a treat to celebrate, but since ice cream is pretty much everyone's favorite dessert around here, including MINE, we had a kick of celebration instead.  YUM.

The guy at the store was so incredibly nice to us, and we were the only ones in there.  Honestly, I sampled so many flavors that I would have been content to just go home without ordering anything!  But naturally that would never happen.  Ha!  They will "stuff' up to three flavors in a small cup (called a Piccolo, by the way!) and it was all so delicious it was hard to narrow the choices to three.  The sea salt caramel was amazing.  :-)

If you have never tasted gelato before, it is a creamier, richer version of ice cream.  A very small amount goes a very long way, but it is incredibly yummy!

Good old spaghetti and meatballs made it to the lunch menu for day two.  (We don't normally cook like this for lunchtime, so the teenage boys were loving this particular row!!  Ha!!)

In the story, the gondolier gives Papa Piccolo bits of pastry to eat, which is promptly stolen by the troublesome kitties.  My girlfriend told me about this quick and easy way to prepare chocolate pastry.

Roll out a refrigerated pie crust.  (I used Pillsbury.)  Use a pizza cutter to cut into sections.  Fill each section with squares from a Hershey milk chocolate bar, then fold over the crust and seal edges with a fork to make a little pocket.  Bake, cool completely, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.  

I liked the simplicity of this recipe because she could make the whole thing herself.

There are so many art and craft ideas to accompany this row.  I searched for "kid cat crafts" on Pinterest and found dozens of fun things I would have many ideas, so little time!

We used a tutorial from to learn how to draw a cat.  We put our own spin on it by adding colorful ribbons to the background, just like one of the illustrations in our book.  We drew the cat with Sharpie, colored with oil pastels, and then watercolored over the entire thing.

Our completed masterpieces!

We read tons of books about cats from the library, and one day she was inspired to make a new toy for our cat, Leo, out of ribbon and string.  (He is old and half grumpy, so he wasn't as smitten with this as she hoped he would be!)

One of our favorite activities was this color wheel from mamajenn.  Don't miss this if you row this book!  We printed the color wheels from her site, placed them in page protectors, and added designated drops of colored water to each circle.  

Then, we covered the page with a paper towel and viola!  A color wheel!  We started with the secondary colors....

....and then moved on to tertiary colors.

Then we took inspiration from and made a color wheel flower using paint chips.  (My husband went with me to Home Depot the day I got all these paint samples, but he was MORTIFIED that I was taking them to use on a craft project, and he wouldn't even stay in the paint department with me.  All I could think about were the seven million pinterest ideas I see using paint chips, and I had to wonder how many women go in there on a daily basis to raid the paint samples.  Not that two wrongs make a right.......)

We naturally had a big Italian meal one night to celebrate.  We used a Beanie Baby that looked like Papa Piccolo for our centerpiece, surrounded by some very special shells.  Sissy brought these back to Emma when she visited Venice Beach last summer, so it was very exciting to have an authentic Venetian table!

Masks are a big part of the artisan culture in Venice.  We stopped in the Dollar Tree the day of our Italian dinner and happened to find this feather mask in Italian colors on clearance.  Score!
(Meet the World's Greatest Dog, by the way.  This is Penny, the wonder hound, and she is part of every. single. thing. we. do.)

Our menu included Pioneer Woman's calzone recipe...

....and homemade pizza.  YUM.

Talking with our hands, like the Italians do!  (Except the boys.  They don't talk, with their hands or otherwise.  They are teens!)

One afternoon after school time, I gave Emma a stack of felt and some embroidery floss.  

She worked and worked....

...and concentrated so hard....

And she made a Papa Piccolo finger puppet!  How precious is this???

I'm saving this forever and ever.  :-)

We pulled Aesop's Fables off the shelf and read a fable with a moral that related to our book. 

We also got a great book from the library called Why Do Cats Meow?, which prompted us to make cat fact cards for our lap book.  We learned some interesting trivia from this book.

Another good book is Things That Come From Italy.  We had quite a list going of inventions that originated in Italy.

This printable from the internet was a great go-along for this story.  (Sorry I uploaded these sideways!)

One night the boys had an activity planned, so Daddy and I took Emma to a fancy Italian restaurant, just the three of us.  It was a fun date night, and Emma had just learned how to fold fabric napkins at her Faith Keeper's meeting, so she entertained the waiter by making napkin roses.  

Our final project for this unit was a Venetian architecture project I found at laughpaintcreate.  (She has a toddler version of this craft on her site as well that is also fantastic.)  I absolutely loved this project and thought it turned out really well, but it was fairly involved and we used large watercolor paper, so we spread this one out over three days and listened to a book on tape while we worked.  If I had more wall space in my homeschool room for display, I would frame this one.

Here are some other fun things we did during this unit:

* We listened to Vivaldi's piccolo concerto on you is lovely.

*  Watched a great video on you tube (Kids Travel Series) about Venetian culture and travel.

*  Made a map of Italy.  (There are some good printables at

*  Did another simple "how to draw a cat" lesson from pinterest.

*  Checked out a video from the library about how to learn Italian.

Here are some things that I had planned that we never got around to:

*  Playing hopscotch!  It was tooooo darn hot that week, but she keeps asking, so eventually we will go out and do this.

*  Painting upside down under a table.  We did read a book about Michelangelo, but we did so many other painting projects this time we didn't get around to this one.

*  A cute 3-D Venice canal project from

We will save some of these other ideas for when we row Clown of God!

I'm closing with one more recipe.  This is one of our family's favorite meals.  I'm always looking for quick and easy weeknight ideas, and since pasta is a popular staple, I'm sharing this fun spin on baked spaghetti.  This recipe came to me from my friend Leslie, one of the best cooks I know!  Whether you happen to be studying Italy or not, perhaps someone will be inspired to give this one a try!  ;-)


Brown together:
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. hot sausage (we use mild because we are wimps.)
onion and garlic

Meanwhile, boil and drain 12 ou. angel hair pasta and mix with 5T butter.
Put pasta in bottom of 9x13 baker.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded cheddar over noodles (I use more).

Simmer together in saucepan:
15 ou. can tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
3 T worcestershire (I decrease slightly)
1 t. basil
1/4 t. salt

Add meat to sauce, then spoon over noodles and cheese.
Bake at 350 uncovered for 25-30 minutes.
(This can easily be split between two 8" pans to eat one and freeze one.)

1 comment:

  1. Now I can't wait to row Papa Piccolo! I am in love with Emma's pastel and watercolor masterpiece and her sweet, little felt cat! How great! I will be checking back here when I start to plan this book! Thanks! :)